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Buy, Sell or Wait: COVID-19, SIP & SF Real Estate

April 2, 2020

Safety comes first. For many of you, this means real estate will be the furthest from your mind. For others, there is a reason you want or need to sell or buy a home. You may want to know if this is possible right now and how to do this safely.

The Latest on the Law

Real estate is now classified as essential. You can sell a home. You can buy a home. Sort of...

Here is how SFGov describes real estate under the Shelter-in-Place ordinance:

“Real estate agents may only show homes to potential residents via video or livestream. When a virtual showing is not feasible, a single agent may show a home in person only to a maximum of 2 people. Those 2 people must reside in the same household. And the current occupant must not still reside in the home.”

Perhaps on purpose, this language is broad and a bit vague. What’s clear is that the spirit of the San Francisco ordinance is to keep people at home as much as possible.

Fortunately, about 80% of my job as a real estate agent is virtual: phone, video conferencing, email. This was true before the virus.

Under certain circumstances, you can sell a home in San Francisco. Does that mean you should?

Home Buying in the Time of Corona

Once current listing inventory sells, many SF real estate agents predict home values will stabilize.

For nearly a decade, low supply has driven positive home price appreciation. If a buyer’s market is defined as having 4+ months’ supply of homes for sale, we haven’t had one since October 2011.

San Francisco real estate months' supply

In other words, solving our current crisis still leaves a housing inventory crisis. That points to home sales and values bouncing back. If tech or the broader economy is negatively affected for too long (a distinct possibility), this may be too optimistic.

If you are a home buyer looking for value, does it seem like a bad time to make an offer on a home…?

The best deals are with the listings that are on the market now or were on the market and are now “on hold” in the MLS. These are Sellers who listed their homes pre-COVID-19 and are adjusting to the new world order.

Many Sellers chose to withdraw their listing or let it expire. As a Compass agent, my team has access to this extensive list of “shadow inventory” currently withdrawn and “on hold” from the public market.

San Francisco real estate - expired or withdrawn listings

This is not for the faint of heart. In-person viewings are still severely limited to help enforce our collective effort to flatten the curve.

However, some Buyers feel they know what they are looking for. If the price is right, they are not opposed to making an offer relying on video, photography, disclosure reports, and exterior inspections—literally walking around the listing—to decide if it’s the right fit.

Selling a Home in the Time of Corona

Even suggesting that you sell a home under these conditions sounds crazy.

Yet, some of you want to upgrade, downsize or what I call “right-size,” while relative deals can be had (see prior section). Some of you have an external motivation to sell: relocation, down-sizing, family change like birth, divorce or death. Some of you want a better home office, kids playroom, or kitchen for the home-cooked meals.

The market is a far cry from normal March numbers, but many brave or highly-motivated sellers are still taking the plunge. About 600 new listings hit the market last week, and about 500 sellers accepted an offer.

San Francisco real estate - new listingsSan Francisco real estate - accepted offers

It takes time to sell a home. There is a lot to discuss and decide. Will you be comfortable moving out of the home so it can be shown? Under what conditions? What if you own a condo or TIC or multi-unit? How can this work?

Under the current rules, open houses are not allowed. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Would it surprise you to know that about 50-75% of open house visitors are not active home buyers? For some residents, a weekly home tour is a hobby and a form of exercise. Don’t worry, I won’t name names…

One thing is certain. If you want to sell, robust online marketing and a comprehensive package of information about the home is a must-have.

Danielle, you have officially lost your mind

"I would never make a move right now," you might say. "Definitely wait."

Fair enough. The current climate is uncertain and scary. We are not going anywhere. Stay tuned for the latest updates.

See you out there, at a safe distance!

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